Constellation’s three new fall releases by Off World, Automatisme and Jason Sharp are dropping on September 30th… These new releases are wildly different yet satisfyingly leftfield albums that share an electric thread of sorts. Electronic music strategies, technologies, histories and sensibilities come into play, in very diverse ways, with each of these debut records – making them stand out a little differently in the context of the Constellation catalogue perhaps, but also informing one another and making a lot of sense to our ears as an album trio (somewhat in the spirit of our Musique Fragile series).
This is the third of those three.
Jason Sharp has written this disc as “music written for amplified heart & breath,” and Sharp is credited with “playing” amplified heart, feedback, synthesizers and bass saxophone. Other instruments listed are Pedal Steel Guitar, Violin and various percussive instruments.
From the Constellation site: “Using custom-built equipment to translate breath and heart rate into variegated sonic triggers, along with other modes of signal processing and in tandem with traditional instrumentation…[the album] deploys the human metronome of amplified pulse as a recurring undercurrent, with compositions that incorporate electro-acoustic and musique concrète strategies, drone, noise, electronics, methodical dissonance, tone poem, layered rhythmic and melodic figures, and improvisation.”
The disc opens with a trio of songs: “A Boat Upon Its Blood Pt.s 1, 2 & 3” Part 1 begins with some quiet drones and pulses and what sounds (if you think about it) like water running through pipes or blood through veins. It also like plectrum hitting strings or a musical rain stick. The songs build in intensity until a pulse that sounds a lot like a heart beat (which it should) ends the track. This heart beat segues into Part 2 which is dominated by violins. The violins seem to alternate between drones and dissonance with the pulses seeming to beat a bit faster in parts. As this track ends, a martial beat takes over the drums, and that segues into Part 3 which has more drone sounds. About midway through, new percussive sounds come in, changing the tone of the piece entirely.
Track 4 is “In the construction of the chest, there is a heart” is the most interesting of the bunch. It has what I assume are several different heart beat sounds modified to create different percussion under various droning sounds. It really exemplifies the “heartbeat” aspect of the piece, which I thought would be more prominent in the disc overall. The second half of the song is full of swishes and scratchy sounds which I certainly hope are the sounds of his blood pulsing through his veins.
“A blast at best” is a noise piece which sounds almost like the heart beats have been put through an autotune. Midway through the song comes the bass sax playing some farting and pulsing sounds that add an interesting melody to the sloshy noises.
Tracks 6 and 7 are another multi-part song “Still I sit
with you inside me Parts 1 and 2.” Part 1 opens with a much more pleasant, albeit somber violin. Slowly the heartbeats grow louder and more prominent. The pulses increase and decrease although not necessarily with the intensity of the music. The violins swirl and ebb, growing louder and more intense and then fading and seguing into the last track which opens with pretty guitars and accompanying violin. About halfway through the song, the heartbeat resumes. It come pulsing into the song louder and louder, dominating the whole thing. And then with a few seconds left it builds a wall of feedback and noise that gives way to a cathartic echo.
This would be another string candidate for NPR’s Echoes. Have you heard this, John Diliberto?
The disc notes that the piece was inspired by the Robert Creeley poem, “The Heart,” which I have included at the end of the post.
[READ: April 9, 2016] Sardine in Outer Space 5
Sardine is a children’s book published by First Second. It was originally published in France (and in French) and was translated by Sasha Watson. There are six Sardine books out.
The inner flap says “No Grownups Allowed (Unless they’re pirates or space adventurers).” For the first time, Sardine was created without the help of Joann Sfar. And I found this one to be my favorite one yet!
It seems like Sardine has really hits its stride with Book 5. The author is having a ton of fun playing around with pop culture and with the idea that the characters know that there are books about them. It’s still a little weird that Supermuscleman is really the only bad guy and that he is always coincidentally where they show up, but that’s clearly not the point of the comic, right?
In “The Bold and the Bashful” there’s no sign of Supermuscleman–a nice treat as I find these stories to be refreshingly different. The premise here is that the people who live on the dark side of the moon are shy and afraid of the sun, while the people on the light side of the moon do nothing but party all the time. Cant they just put their differences aside and enjoy both sides of the moon?
The premise of the “Scamcorder” is very funny. “These days every parent in the universe has a camcorder to film their kids….well, the Scamcorder shoots a ray that makes you pimply, hairy and big eared.” One joke I especially liked in this story was that as Doc Krok was telling his evil plans, Supermuscleman is not listening to him. I also like when Supermuscleman and Doc Krok play dress up.
In “Schoolmaster,” the kids want a teacher… mostly so that they can have summer vacation. The schoolmaster who arrives is pretty funny: “Greetings, comma, is this the residence of Captain Yellow Shoulder, question mark?” He is really strict with everyone, including Supermuscleman.
“Pilot-o-Matic” has Doc Krok inventing a robot who will take our heroes not to their destination but to a detention facility. The bad guys dress as stewardesses and then release a toxic gas which is only prevented by wearing a clown nose. Good thing Sardine was in the bathroom at the time.
“Murder in Space” has a dead body in the comic–they’ve never had that before. They use a crime novel to solve the case, which winds up having a strange but happy ending.
In “Sardine and the Light Rail,” our heroes take the subway (from Times Squared). But Supermuscleman has outlawed smiles and laughter on the light rail. Sardine tells a joke that is pretty funny–but only in context–which gets everyone to laugh.
The comics have been getting a little bit cleaner now too, which I rather like.
In “The Dancing Star,” there’s a wonderfully crazy-looking character who is a ballerina. She tries to teach our heroes to dance, (with all of them in ballet costumes). Naturally Doc Krok attempts to kidnap the ballerina for Supermuscleman’s birthday party.
In “The Brain of Professor Mush,” the baddies steal the smart TV professor–he has literally lost his mind. It’s a race to see who can find it first. When Sardine and co. go to find it, they meet Parallelo and Gram and a guy with a protractor for a head name Mister Pro. Sardine fakes Doc Krok out by “making a brain” out of gum.
“The Elector Detector” is one of those ones where Doc Krok’s invention is really pretty cool. He makes a 3D poster. But in casting Supermuscleman’s face he actually hurts him quite a bit.
My favorite story in the book was “My Cousin Manga,” in which Sardine’s cousin Manga comes to visit. Manga is the embodiment of all manga charterers–big eyes, school girl outfit, flying boots–and of course, the world loves her too. Wherever they go, there is a mad rush to meet her. As the story ends Manga has given them all manga disguises, which is pretty funny and a little unsettling.
I was surprised that Sfar left the comic, but I don’t feel like his departure hurt the stories at all. And if Guibert is drawing in Sfar’s style, he has done a great job if it.
“The Heart” by Robert Creeley
In the construction
of the chest, there is
upon its blood
and round or down
the stream of life,
the plummeting veins
permit its passage
to admit no gains,
no looking back.
One steps aboard,
The ticket taker
signs the time allotted
Seated, amorphous persons
see no scenery
A chill about their knees
and hear a fading cry
as all the many sides of life
a blast at best, a loss
of individual impressions.
Still I sit
with you inside me too–
the couple thus encoupled,
ride on into the sweetening dark.